A Hypothetical Question On Church And State
December 1, 2009
If God commanded you directly by voice from heaven to vote to make wearing red t-shirts illegal (say it’s on the ballot, California referendum style), and you became convinced that God had actually given you such a command, would you vote accordingly? Just to secure the hypothetical, let’s say that you were with your closest friends and family, including the ones you trust most and the ones who are most skeptical in character, and each of them affirms that he/she heard God give you the command, and you are provided whatever other forms of proof you need to be certain that it was actually the Creator of the Universe who gave you the command (dew on the grass but not on the blanket, a staff turning into a snake, burning bush, water into wine, and whatever else you want). Again, would you vote according to the command? (You need not assume that it’s the Christian God giving you the command; just some ultimate creator.)
If your answer to the question is “yes,” it seems to me that you are therefore willing to enforce your religious convictions in a political manner upon others, consistent with your (practically undeniable) belief in God and His command, regardless of whether anybody else had any insight into your knowledge of the command obtained through direct revelation. It probably wouldn’t much matter to you that others happen to disagree about whether you had been given the command, or even if they thought you were crazy. You were given a direct insight from God and a command, and you chose to obey. (Note: this is only because God hypothetically commanded you to, and I am not setting forth the argument–at least not in this post–that in reality, God has in fact commanded you to vote in any particular way on red t-shirts or any other issue. That’s for another post.)
If your answer to the question is “no”, then it seems you aren’t really all that willing to obey God (or else you doubt your sanity). You place your politics or personal judgments ahead of God Himself, which is to say that you are ultimately faithful not to God, but to the state and/or your own fallible judgment. In short, you are deliberately and knowingly unfaithful.
Now replace “red t-shirts” with abortion. Maybe God has commanded people to oppose abortion, or maybe He hasn’t, but if a person in good conscience believes that God wants him or her to politically oppose abortion, he or she is perfectly entitled (perhaps even obligated) to do so, even on religious grounds. The appropriate response to that position for the pro-choice person is not to spit on the freedom of religious conviction and the free exercise thereof by demanding that people keep their religion to themselves, but rather to discuss whether God actually does require them to oppose abortion. And that will bring us squarely to a religious discussion about politics. Suddenly the lines don’t seem so clear.
I came up with this little hypothetical at one minute shy of midnight, which is rather late for me. Perhaps I’ve committed some fallacy. But I’m very curious how one would respond to my brief argument (one conclusion being that if your religion requires certain political action and you reject, even oppose, that political action, you deny your faith).